Postfeminism and Inclusion Seminar

Dr Patricia Lewis is leading a seminar at the Institute for Management Research at Radboud University, Nijmegen in the Netherlands on Thursday 6 November 2014.

The seminar is titled ‘Postfeminism and Intersectionality: Exploring the Complexities of Women’s Inclusion in Contemporary Organizations’

A summary of the presentation follows:

In recent work (Lewis, 2014), I have argued that the time has come for gender scholars to move away from a focus on women’s exclusion from organizations connected to a dominant masculine norm. Instead, through critical deployment of the concept of postfeminism, I suggest the need for a critique of how women and a reconfigured femininity are now being included in the contemporary workplace, highlighting the way in which women are subject to a stream of enticements in relation to their visibility, agency and capacity in today’s organizations. In other words engaging in the workplace in a way that is “both progressive but also consummately and reassuringly feminine” (McRobbie, 2009:57). This is not to claim that the concept of femininity has been completely left out of the gender and organization studies field, but an elucidation of postfeminism and how it has reworked cultural understandings of femininity in countries such as Britain and America, impacting on women’s access to and positioning within organizations, is largely absent. However, defining and understanding what is meant by postfeminism is notoriously difficult so the first part of this presentation will map out the definitional complexity of this phenomenon and the feminine organizational subjectivities it can give rise to.

Following this, the second part of the presentation will consider postfeminism through the lens of intersectionality, highlighting the way it privileges a white, middle-class, heterosexual subject (Projansky, 2001).  Nevertheless, the relationship between postfeminism and the non-white, non-heterosexual, non-middle class female subject is not simply one of exclusion. While postfeminism may reconfigure a restricted femininity this does not mean that only white, heterosexual, middle class women are included in and affected by the postfeminist cultural phenomenon – women of colour may also take-up postfeminist discourses. Approaching postfeminism as inclusive of women of colour and other forms of difference – though recognising its affirmation of whiteness, heterosexuality and middle classness as the standard – allows us to explore how take-up of postfeminist discourses impacts on feminine organizational subjectivities – some of which reinforce conventional dominance while others provide the opportunity for disruption.

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